Oct. 24, 2013
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DeKALB, Ill. – The Northern Illinois University volleyball team gets their first home matches in three weeks this weekend, as they welcome Ohio and Kent State into Victor E. Court.
The Huskies battle the Bobcats Friday night at 7 p.m., which will feature FREE live streaming from NIU Media Services. The next night, NIU takes on the Golden Flashes in the annual Pink Match and Alumni Night. Fans attending Saturday night’s match should be aware that they will be charged for parking due to the NIU football game at 2:30 p.m. and concert later that night.
“It’s a great time to be a Huskie, as far as all the energy that is going on,” said NIU Head Coach about the event-filled weekend with volleyball and around campus, which includes the opening of the Chessick Practice Center. “There’s a lot of positives that are going around campus, so we’re hoping for lots of continual support from our fanbase.”
NIU closed out their four-match road trip last weekend with a trek out to Buffalo and Akron. After suffering a 3-2 defeat Friday night to the Bulls, the Huskies bounced back Saturday by taking a 3-1 win against the Zips.
This weekend, NIU hosts two of the MAC East’s top teams in the standings. The first opponent, Ohio, currently sits atop the division with a 6-2 conference mark and a 16-4 overall record. Earlier in the year, the Bobcats upset then-#8 – and currently #20 – Oregon on their home floor and swept then-#21 Western Kentucky. Yet, Ohio has cooled off with a 2-2 record the last two weekends to fall from #18 in the nation to receiving votes. The Bobcats lead the MAC in attack percentage with a .267 average and rank in the top five in every other statistical category.
“Ohio comes in as one of the top teams in our conference,” Gooden said. “They had a setback against Ball State, but we know they are one of the most physical and successful teams in our conference. They’ve had significant wins all year and they play a really confident style of volleyball.”
On Saturday, the Huskies face KSU. The Golden Flashes come into the weekend with a 10-11 overall record and a 4-4 MAC mark. Despite a rough start to the season, KSU has rebounded with a 9-6 record since Sept. 13.
“Kent comes in with a lot of positive energy, as well,” Gooden said. “They are a physical team – a typical East team. We’re going to have to do our best to battle. The good thing is that we are at home.”
Annually one of the conference’s strongest programs, Ohio sits atop the MAC East right now with a 6-2 conference record and a 16-4 mark overall. The Bobcats made an appearance in the AVCA Top 25 earlier this season and are currently receiving votes in the coaches’ poll. Individually, junior outside hitter and Cary, Ill., native Kelly Lamberti leads the Bobcats with 3.31 kills/set, followed by freshman Katie Horton (2.32 kills/set) and junior Liis Kullerkaan (2.18 kills/set). Ohio also has three players in the top 10 of the conference in attack percentage in Abby Gilleland (.346), Pinson (.343) and Karin Bull (.315). On defense, Alexis Pinson ranks second in the MAC with 1.36 blocks/set. The Huskies hold a slim 15-14 lead in the all-time series with the Bobcats after upsetting top-seeded Ohio in the 2012 MAC Tournament Semi-Finals.
Scouting Kent State
Much like NIU, Kent State is right in the middle of what is shaping up to be a tight race in the MAC Tournament race, as the Golden Flashes are an even 4-4 in the conference and 10-11 overall. KSU dropped their two matches last weekend to Ball State and Toledo, but were responsible for knocking then-#18 Ohio out of the Top 25 the weekend prior. Sophomore Kelly Hutchison and freshman Bianca Cifaldi headline the Golden Flashes’ offense with 2.94 kills/set and 2.80 kills/set, respectively. Meanwhile, Aleksandra Nowak ranks fifth in the conference with 10.06 assists/set. Defensively, Hannah Herc leads KSU and is fifth in the MAC with 4.62 digs/set. The Huskies hold a healthy 25-7 lead in the series with the Golden Flashes despite last year’s 3-1 loss in Kent.
The Huskies kept their recent success against Akron going this weekend with a 3-1 win over the Zips Saturday afternoon. The victory was NIU’s 11th-straight win over UA and the 22nd all-time over the Zips. The 11 consecutive wins is currently the longest streak that NIU has against any MAC opponent by a long shot. The only winning streak against one opponent that is longer than that one is against Green Bay, whom the Huskies have beaten each of the last 19 times those two teams have met.
With her four blocks Saturday against Akron, NIU senior Sarah Angelos became the ninth player in NIU history to record 1,000 kills and 300 blocks in her career with the Huskies. The Waukegan, Ill., native joins Amy Foulke (1990-93), Kori Schauer (1990-93), Becky Stewart (1994-97), Tamara Stutheit (1995-98), Jen VonderHaar (1999-2002), Rena Widboom (1999-2002), Kate McCullagh (2003-06) and Mary Kurisch (2009-12) as the only players in program history to accomplish that feat. Currently, Angelos has 1,160 kills and 302 blocks.
Through 22 matches this season, the Huskies have been in plenty of tight contests and that stats show exactly that. Over 88 sets, NIU has won 45, while their opposition has taken 43 sets. Meanwhile, the total points scored between the Huskies and their opponents is dead even, as both sides have scored 1,917 points in matches played this season.
With their 12 team blocks Saturday against Akron, the Huskies notched their ninth match with 10 blocks or more. By comparison, NIU only had eight matches with double-digit blocks during the entire 2012 season and nine such performances between 2009 and 2011.
Previous Experience Required
Entering this weekend, Sarah Angelos and Justine Schepler have played in 128 and 126 matches, respectively, which would put them in sixth and seventh in program annals by the end of the regular season. Additionally, Angelos’ 479 sets played is the fifth-most in Huskie history and only 15 away from the team record of 494 held by Mary Kurisch. Angelos is also the nation’s active career leader in sets played.
Home, Sweet Home
Victor E. Court has been a rather friendly place for the Huskies in the past and this year is no different. With two wins last weekend against Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan, NIU boasts a 9-4 mark on their home floor this year and a 43-14 mark - a .754 winning percentage - in DeKalb since the start of the 2010 season. The Huskies have not lost at home to a team ranked outside of the RPI Top 100 since Oct. 26, 2012, when they lost a 3-1 decision to Eastern Michigan.
In his 12th season as NIU head coach, Ray Gooden is now the longest-tenured coach in NIU Volleyball history. A three-time MAC Coach of the Year, Gooden has led the Huskies to three consecutive 20-win seasons and has guided the team to the last three MAC Tournament title matches. The program’s second all-time wins leader owns a 217-161 record at NIU, including a 106-81 mark in MAC play and an impressive 130-62 tally at home. Additionally, Gooden has coached 25 All-MAC, 19 Academic All-MAC, six MAC All-Freshman and five MAC Player of the Year selections, along with the only seven All-American selections in program history. Six players have also reached the 1,000-kill plateau under Gooden.
Northern Illinois continues their homestand next weekend. On Halloween night, the Huskies welcome Western Michigan to Victor E. Court for an ESPN3/Time Warner Cable SportsChannel match. Two nights later, NIU hosts Miami (Ohio) in their final interdivisional match of the regular season.
The Last Meeting
November 17, 2012
Huskies Comeback from 0-2 Deficit to Advance to Third Straight MAC Title Match
A true team effort pushed the Northern Illinois volleyball team to its third straight Mid-American Conference Tournament championship match as the No. 4 seed Huskies (21-13, 10-6 MAC) overcame a 0-2 deficit to No. 1 seed Ohio 23-25, 21-25, 25-18, 25-22, 15-11 Saturday afternoon at SPIRE Institute in the semifinals. NIU awaits the winner of No. 2 Bowling Green - No. 3 Western
The Last Meeting
October 20, 2012
Huskies Fall 3-1 at Kent State
The Northern Illinois volleyball team fell 25-27, 25-23, 19-25, 17-25 to Kent State Saturday night at the M.A.C. Center. The decision ended a five-match winning streak the Huskies (15-11, 6-4 MAC) had over the Golden Flashes (5-17, 2-8 MAC) and gave NIU its first 0-2 weekend in conference play since Oct. 29-30, 2010 at Toledo and Ball State.